This month, a record-breaking verdict was issued in a case of nursing home abuse.
In 2004, the incident was featured in an article in the St. Petersburg Times Online, which detailed the appalling demise of 92-year-old Elvira Nunziata. After being absent for nearly an hour without being noticed by any of the nursing home staff, Ms. Nunziata was found dead at the bottom of the fire escape. She had tumbled down a full flight of stairs while still strapped her in wheelchair. Once she was discovered, the paramedics were called, but Elvira Nunziata was pronounced dead upon their arrival.
Nursing Home Neglect
When records were checked with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) immediately following the incident, it was revealed that Pinellas Park Care and Rehabilitation Center was ranked in the bottom twenty percent of nursing homes in the St. Petersburg, Florida area. Some of the concerns cited were problems with sanitary preparation of food and lack of proper labeling of drugs and other biological supplies.
An Unnecessary Loss
Ms. Nunziata had been living at the center for a mere 14 months before her tragic accident. Yet, according to a recent report in the online Tampa Bay Times, Nunziata’s son alleges that his mother had sustained several falls and injuries in the brief amount of time she resided at the center. Ms. Nunziata suffered from the onset of dementia and had a history of wandering. As a result, she wore alarms on her clothing and wheelchair as a means to track her. Despite these alarms, Ms. Nunziata was reported to have been missing for an hour before any member of the staff realized she had disappeared. In addition to her personal alarms, the door to the fire escape should have sounded yet another alarm when opened.
When police arrived to investigate the death, they found the alarm to be in good working condition. However, in later testimony, former aides stated the alarm was often disabled so staff members could step outside to smoke.
A Deserving Settlement
Richard Nunziata received a $200 million settlement in response to his allegations that nursing home neglect resulted in the death of his mother. Mr. Nunziata experienced not only the loss of his mother, but additionally the sudden and violent manner of her death, knowing she must have suffered as she fell down the flight of stairs. The verdict was found in Mr. Nunziata’s favor, and he was awarded $140 million in punitive damage and $60 million in compensation.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
In this case, Ms. Nunziata’s fall may have been avoided if Pinellas Park Care and Rehabilitation Center had been forced earlier to improve conditions and safety at the center. It is of the utmost importance for friends and family of nursing home residents to be on the lookout for signs of neglect and abuse. Signs to look for include:
- Poor hygiene
- Stained clothing
- Changes in resident’s personality
- Rude and argumentative staff
- Unexplained injuries
Remember that time is of the essence. A small injury could turn into a big problem and the loss of loved one.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of the nursing home staff, contact our experienced attorneys today to find out if he or she is eligible for compensation. We offer a free consultation during which we will discuss your legal rights and options.